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RELEASE DATE (NA): February 26, 2008 GENRE: Rhythm/God Simulation
// review by SoyBomb

Pata pata pata pon! Pon? PON!?!?!

Pon pon pata pon!
Nothing to review here!
Pon pon pata pon!
I said there's nothing to review here!
Pata pata pata pon!
Oh, very well. let's get going. We're going to talk about Patapon. Patapon is a very strange game for the PSP, released straight from the happy minds of Sony to your living room handheld, whatever that means. The first thing you need to know is that Patapon is a rhythm game. That has a tendency to scare me off, mostly because I have the rhythmic skills of a decaying corn pone, especially when it comes to video games. I tried Parappa the Rapper for PSP a while back, and it kicked me right in the dangly generator. I couldn't get a rhythm going to save my life, and I have since been skeptical of any game that primarily relies on hitting buttons to a beat. (Legend of Dragoon worked that into its gameplay, but I somehow found that to work better.) But here lay Patapon before me, ready to dig its tempo claws into my pasty skin. And let me tell you: Patapon is outright weird.
Chaka chaka pata pon!
Whoa, don't get so defensive on me, you toddleresque incarnation of the ancient god Monocles! I'll explain! Your character acts in a godly manner yourself, keeping a watchful eye over the tribe of Patapons, a group of small but strong one-eyed creatures. Your goal is to get the Patapons to Earthend, where they can find "IT". IT! The oft-lauded treasure that will bring the Patapons back to salvation after being tormented and having their number reduced by the dreaded Zigoton Empire. Nobody knows what IT is, but they have strong faith in your direction skills, for you are a god among the people, and they will surely follow if they can eventually be happy!

You'll have to lead them to victory through a variety of missions, many of them against the rough'n'tough forces of the Zigoton army and all its many resources and necromantic ghoulies. You do so by giving your Patapon troops commands, received only through drumbeats. Just shouting it from the Heavens is apparently not an option, nor is having them think for themselves. Each command is delivered in a four-beat measure, and they will respond to your command in the following four beats. For example, pata-pata-pata-pon (where "pata" is assigned to the square button, and "pon" to the circle), they will advance a bit. As the beat goes on, you can keep them walking. Pata-pata-pata-pon! Then-they-move-up!Pata-pata-pata-pon! They-move-up-more! If enemies approach, you can always pull off the ol' Pon-Pon-Pata-Pon! They-will-fight-now! But you have to keep the rhythm up; one off-beat button press or incorrect button combination will cause them to stand there like confused deer and do nothing until you get it right.

If you continue to make excellent drum rhythms, they'll eventually become quite enthused, entering Fever Mode, whereas they will deal triple the normal damage. That's always preferred, so you'll have to keep up your rhythm. The game has a beat going in the background at all times, so you'll have an aural reference point. The border of the screen also flashes with the beat, so keeping a close watch on that will help immensely. Defeating your enemies and reaching the end point of the level will lead to victory, and your Patapon will cheer and, presumably, have delicious wine later. Any Patapons killed in battle can be revived back at the Patapon base afterward, provided you picked up their cap before leaving the area.

Keep those thumbs at the ready: there are dragons afoot!

There are, assuredly, other things to do in Patapon. You have to build up your army! But that costs precious kaching. No, I'm not just throwing a synonym for "money" out there. They really called the currency "Kaching", as in the sound an old-tyme cash register makes when it wallops you in the abdomen. after a sale. As time goes by, you'll gain additional types of units to take into battle, though you can only bring up to three different warrior classes with you in any given level. To raise new troops, you'll also need either meat or ore, dropped by enemies in battle or by entering "hunting" stages, where you just go through and chop down any peculiar animals in your way, all for their tasty seasoned muscular tenderloin. Yeah, you want that tenderloin. As for weapons and armor your troops, well, I hope your enemies drop some good equipment because you don't have a Patapon blacksmith, which is unpleasant. There are also four special items called Jujus that can be summoned to cause different weather conditions. Mini-games are also unlocked over time, though they are pretty much voluntary and offer little to the quest, aside from extra troop-raising items.

Patapon also sports a very simple silhouette art style that could either be considered as ingenious for a portable game or just plain lazy. I think it tows the line a bit, though everything is definitely full of cheerful animation. The audio is a mixed bag as well. The background music only plays continuously if you can actually stay on the beat; losing your rhythm makes the soundtrack disappear into the mists of time. The Patapons certainly are vocal, though. If you aren't doing very well, they'll certainly scream at you and make fun of your pants. Okay, maybe not the second part. They don't possess standard voices; they're quite warped or high-pitched.

For me, relying solely on your sense of rhythm is an unusual way of playing a real-time strategy game. But somehow, they made it work. Admittedly, the game is rather unforgiving: being even slightly off-beat could lead to a failed mission. And that was, perhaps, my biggest gripe with the game was its need to be exact without any leeway. But, rhythmic issues aside, the game still has its fair share of legitimate challenges. My advice would simply be to practice and stick with it. This all being said, Patapon was definitely a unique experience. At first, I did not care much for the game, but its little quirks soon grew on me like that one time I found moss stuck to my thigh after napping for too long. They may grow on you, too, as long as you patience and good sense of tempo. Otherwise, you'll be quite upset.

Pon pon pata pon!
There's nowhere left to go. I'm done. Get out of here. *flick*

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